Where You Now Shall Go
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
April 9, 2005
Where You Now Shall Go, a new theatre piece by Stone Soup Theatre Arts, is about a solitary man wandering the world looking for a suitable place to lead his people. His travels take him to a variety of strange places, none of which will do, because each of them exists under oppressive, arbitrary rules that curtail individual freedoms. The first is a whimsical domain where everybody plays hopscotch all day long—but nobody's ever allowed to move out of the confines of their own personal "board." Another is a land where slaves toil in the fields for the benefit of a malevolent ruler who controls not only all of the means of production but the means of communication as well. Yet another is an exotic country where people are restricted to using only one of their five senses.
The point of this is easy to discern, especially given a program note that says "To have the gift of speech, of assembly, of protest, is to have great freedom; however, with freedom comes responsibility. It isn't exclusive: to be truly free, we must ensure that others are also."
The vehicle for this exploration of our First Amendment duties and privileges is allegory, an extremely difficult and delicate form; I respect the folks at Stone Soup for their chutzpah in even attempting it and for their imagination and wit in fashioning an original tale that feels timeless and ingenious if occasionally a bit heavy-handed. What's to be admired even more is the stagecraft that director Randy Anderson has devised to make this story dazzlingly theatrical: gorgeous imagery like the use of umbrellas to represent huge flying buzzards, and very specific gestures and movements that define each of the strange lands we visit during the play with real economy. The central image is especially striking—a puppet, animated in turn by different subsets of the seven-person company, in the role of the wanderer. The puppet has neither head nor body; he's defined by his clothes—shirt, pants, shoes, and a baseball cap that shows us where he is at all times, whether it's atop his invisible head or being held, respectfully, by unseen hands.
In between the episodes of the main story are interspersed monologues which recount some of the company's personal experiences touching on the First Amendment; several of these are quite interesting and pointed, such as one that depicts (disappointing) moments in the life of a political activist working on the streets of New York ("Excuse me, do you have a moment to hear about Greenpeace?").
The piece, which lasts about an hour, is performed with enormous energy by the ensemble, who also wrote it; their names are Nat Cauldwell, Teresa Jusino, Marsha Martinez, Maria Schirmer, Shawn Shafner, Ben Trawick-Smith, and Rachel Wahl.